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Posted on Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The President’s Minimum Wage Announcement Ignores Current Rates

President Obama recently announced his intent to sign an Executive Order which would unilaterally increase the minimum wage for certain workers on federal projects. The current federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 an hour, and President Obama is looking to raise it to $10.10 per hour. At first glance, one may think that such an increase will have a widespread impact on the Washington, DC metro area, given its large concentration of federal contractors.

This will not be the case. Such a change would only apply to new or revised federal contracts, and not to current federal contracts. More significantly, the majority of federal contractors are already being paid wages that are over the proposed minimum $10.10 rate, depending on their wage classification.

For example, a bulldozer operator on a federal project in Fairfax County can make a minimum rate of $20.40 per hour, and a court security officer in Washington, D.C. can make a minimum rate of $24.72 per hour. These rates are controlled by the Department of Labor through the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act. Additionally, many federal contractors are union members, meaning that their wage rates and benefits are controlled by collective bargaining agreements. As a result, the President is targeting an issue that is already largely covered by federal law, wage determinations and collective bargaining.

President Obama plans to highlight his Executive Order in tonight’s State of the Union address. While the potential increase may derive from good intentions, it imposes a requirement on an already heavily-regulated industry, and many business owners know that they are already in compliance with the increase.

Katie Lipp is an attorney with the Washington, DC regional business law firm Berenzweig Leonard, LLP. Katie can be reached at klipp@berenzweiglaw.com.

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